Macular degeneration in a Quertyuiop World
Do you ever stop to wonder how things got so screwed up?
We call ourselves sapiens, yet we have created so much needless sickness and suffering that it has become normal to spend the last 10% of our lives dying slowly and expensively, increasingly dependent on pharmaceutical and technical support until the final cut to black. We know that the bulk of modern medicine does little more than treat the symptoms of disease. We know that almost all the degenerative diseases are increasing. We know that our lifestyles and diet are feeding these waves of illness, we know that life expectancy is falling and yet we stay on course, clinging to nurse for fear of something worse.
We continue to grind out our existence between the upper millstone of the food industry, which sells us disease for profit, and the lower millstone of the pharma industry, which receives the poisoned masses and bleeds them until finances and life-lines run dry.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The map on the board may say that you are here, but that map can be redrawn. We know from history and ethnology of other times and other cultures where ageing is less hazardous, and where men and women can reasonably expect to live relatively healthily until the last few weeks or days before death. That seems like a better scenario – so why do so few choose it?
One reason we continue to live in unreason is that our present is overshadowed by our past. A good example of this is thehistorical record printed on every computer keyboard, theqwertyuiop layout. This is a hangover from the first mechanical typewriters. The most frequently used letters were spaced out to slow typists down, because otherwise the lever arms that bought keys up to strike the paper would tangle and jam. Mechanical gave way to electronic and yet the old layout remained, its inefficiency no longer needed but a habit. Our technology evolved but we could not, and remain trapped inside this very imperfect system. Qwertyuiop is a metaphor for systemicresistance to change, our inertial unthinking and our willingness to sleep late on Procrustean beds.
So it is with health. Big Pharma colonized the healthcare system, with John D Rockefeller capitalizing on 19th century germ theory to start the Gadarene rush to synthetic, specific molecules which still hold much of medicine in thrall. It made Big Pharma very rich indeed, enabling them to buy influence and suppress dissent in the medical schools, creating generations of doctors who genuinely and jejeunely believe there is a pill for every ill – if not now, then soon.
The drug companies also colonise their end-users directly. Big Pharma has an unhealthy degree of influence over the MSM and the tech media, and spends vast amounts of money to ensure that their versions of the truth predominate (ie 1-3).
So it is with our food. Big Phood started to amalgamate in the 1950’s and like Big Pharma they arrived, via a series of buy-outs and mergers, at today’s oligopoly. Like Big Pharma they have the money and muscle to dominate the marketplace, the media and the message.
Both of these two guilds guard what they have by any means necessary, and they work in a terrible harmony.
The drug cartel depends on the food industry to supply them with a never-ending river of chronically ill customers, and the food industry depends on Big Pharma to cover up the symptoms of disease caused by their toxic kibble. There is a good deal of cross-ownership between these pillars of the establishment (4), which should surprise no-one. The scientists involved in pharmainvest their effort and intellect in the Pasteurian model, those who work for food focus on palatability, profit margins and shelf life. Lawyers and accountants invest their threadbare souls, while the institutional investors make bank. None of these stakeholders have any interest in giving up any part of what they have, so we must continue to pay to play in this theatre of cruelty.
You can see the damaging results of this unfortunate convergence everywhere. If you can see at all, that is.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, and the third leading cause of blindness worldwide after cataracts and glaucoma. It is thus very common. Prior to the 1930’s, however, macular degeneration was vanishingly rare. In fact, between 1851 and 1930, no more than 50 cases were reported in all the world’s medical literature (5).Then bewilderingly suddenly, the numbers started to increase. By 1944 there were 15 million reported cases (5). This year the global burden has reached 196 million (2), and by 2040 it is projected by some to hit 228 million (6). Others are more optimistic, and assume that current and future medical developments will allow us to keep the numbers as low as 120 million (7).
You have a choice.
On the one hand, the pharmaceutical industry has profited hugely from the introduction of anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy, now so widely used that the incidence of blindness is falling in those countries which can afford the very expensive biologicals currently in vogue (8, 9). These drugs, which must be injected into the eye, include Novartis’ ranibizumab and Regeneron’s aflibercept, both of which cost close to $1000 / shot. A third drug, bevacizumab, is far cheaper but is also made by Novartis and therefore not well promoted.
On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the vast majority of cases of AMD are caused by the modern, ultra-processed diet (5). So, if you are not immediately attracted to the thought of having needles stuck in your eyes, open them.
The alternative is to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and oily fish (10–22). The evidence that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of AMD is, frankly, overwhelming. Multiple reports show that lutein and zeaxanthin, key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet and in the influential AREDS studies, have similarly protective effects in preclinical models (23-27). The protective roles of lutein and zeaxanthin are underlined by genetic research which has identified 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s) involved in the metabolism and transport of lutein and zeaxanthin, all of which are associated with higher risk of early or intermediate AMD (28). The omega 3 HUFA’s and various other micronutrients may also be involved (ie 29, 30).
The best source of omega 3’s is of course oily fish. Luteinoccurs in a fairly wide range of vegetables like kale, green peas, squash and pumpkin, but including significant amounts of zeaxanthin in your diet will require a more directed choice of foods such as paprika, saffron, wolfberries, spinach and corn. It is pretty obvious that all of these nutrients are depleted in the nutrient-lite, energy-dense modern ultra-processed 2000 calorie/day diet. For many reasons, hypovitaminosis D is also prevalent.
Other pathologies such as type 2 diabetes (which brings its own form of macular damage), Parkinsonism, many cancers, IBD, the allergies and the auto-immune diseases have broadly similar causes, have increased in parallel with AMD, and are being similarly mis-treated.
We have run into a problem, and we need to restart.